Just the Bottle

One woman's adventure in beer, food, wine and spirits

Filtering by Category: #winelover

Live a little more!

During the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa last year, there were two post conference excursions to choose from - Napa and Livermore. Both seemed like great options, but Livermore intrigued me. I didn't know much about the area, the wine, or the history. I went with Livermore and returned to DC with love for a new part of California.

As we departed Santa Rosa on a gloomy day after our conference concluded, we were greeted by an amazing team from Livermore Valley who along with serving us sparkling wine promised us sunshine, wine and a non pretentious, but informative wine trip. As we drove past Oakland and San Francisco, the clouds gradually melted away.

We entered a world that is growing in reputation as a place to visit for so many things like wine, food and even ice cream.  Every winery we visited had great value wines along with a unique story or passion that drove the owners or winemakers. One winemaker I met, shared how he was previously in construction and kept getting laid off from jobs or the pay would be sporadic. This spurred him to pursue a degree in oenology, and follow his dream. Another winery owner shared how she had been a pilot with an airline that went under. She decided she would rather be closer to her family and be in control of her own destiny.

These stories of work and determination led to a very genuine and thoughtful experience. Even though this was my first trip to California, I felt as if I were visiting home. Every person greeted me or treated me as more of a family guest as opposed to a tourist. 

If you are planning a California adventure especially one with wine, I would strongly urge you to visit Livermore Valley area. The wines and people have a story to share and it's one worth getting to know.

California Dreaming

I discovered the #winelover community through an ambassador who spoke highly of the group. There's a blog, hashtag on Twitter, but most of the online conversation occurs in a public Facebook page. It serves as a jumping off point for many when it comes to travel, sharing their love of wine, or asking questions. Besides the online discussion, they also organize various trips. I was lucky enough to go the Athens trip a couple years ago and met Tomilsav. Once I knew he was planning a special #winelover trip and conference on an indigenous Serbian variety, Prokupac, I was SOLD. Luckily, I have my special fella who loves wine and travel as much if not more than me. He was on board this time so I had someone else to participate in my silliness and adventures.

The #winelover trip always opens with a special BYOB dinner. This dinner is designed for us to bring something special and share it with others before we truly begin our trip within the region. Last time, I brought Chester Gap Cellars from Virginia. Many of the other #winelover-s are located within Europe and were quite surprised and astounded by a Virginia wine. However, before this trip I was torn. What do I bring as something special this trip?

Before we left, I stopped by Zachys DC location with the fella as he had purchased some wine from one of their recent tasting experiences. While there I talked with Tim about our desire to bring something special and being at a loss for ideas and time. He said, "why not a Napa or  Sonoma wine?" Zachys has set themselves apart by hosting a California Strong Initiative with the goal of raising $25,000 to be distributed equally among three initiatives. It was like a light went off.  We bought two California wines to the BYOB dinner Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast San Adreas Fault 2014 and Matthiasson Chardonnay.

Both wines were a huge hit as I also included why I brought them and why people should care about #SonomaStrong and #NapaStrong. A new friend who runs Wines of Balkans tweeted out the Hirsch wine and encouraged people to buy and donate to various charities.

I was so excited to see that I'll have the opportunity again to taste Matthiasson during the Wine Bloggers Conference as part of the live wine blogging experience. I'm looking forward to chatting with them to learn more about their wines and sharing the love I experienced for their wine while in Serbia.

I've only been home about two weeks, but I'm ready to get back on that plane (not really, but Xanax helps) and learn more about honing my writing, networking, and sharing the Napa and Sonoma love.  

 

Easy Wine and Dinner with Old Westminster wines

My fella and I are always trying new recipes (usually him more than me). He's taken a few cooking classes in the DC area from L'Academie one of which was for paella (that's a whole other delicious story). One of my first experiences with L'Academie was at Metro Cooking DC (which will be back in early December). Metro Cooking DC is one of my preferred food events in DC.

Recently, the fella and I wanted a simple recipe for inspiration for an easy and tasty weeknight dinner. We went to Epicurious as it's one of our go to websites. We found  simple pasta dish with spinach and shrimp. Once he got it started, I knew I had to find the right wine to enjoy his creation with. I reached into our cellar (cellar/closet - apartment living means you make it work) and grabbed a recent acquisition from Old Westminster

Old Westminster is truly a family affair. Drew (vigneron) and his sisters Ashli (estate director) and Lisa (winemaker) are executing their and their parents', Jay and Virginia's vision of making natural wine in Maryland. Every day their wine is changing people's pre-conceived notions on what Maryland wine as well as passionate young people can do. 

In addition to their knowledge and passion, I am always impressed by their transparency. They are incredibly clear with their winemaking and farming methods. They also produce different labels with different colors depending on where they are sourcing the grapes. There's no need to scour a label as it's presented to you. 

The wine we enjoyed was the  2016 Pét-Nat Barbera Rosé (currently sold out at the winery).  This particular style emerged from France's Loire Valley many years ago and fell out of practice for quite some time. Wine geeks and lovers of natural wine made it popular again and there's good reason why. The wine is still going through fermentation when it is placed under  cap. This allows fermentation to finish in the bottle. As yeast converts sugar to alcohol, there is naturally occurring carbon dioxide which adds the fizzy element to the wine. When fermentation is complete, the bottle cap is removed along with sediment and the bottle is recapped. As opposed to Champagne method, which undergoes a second fermentation, this is a one  and done situation. It's also the most natural with no additives, sugar, or anything added. The wine was slightly funky with some earthy notes, along with some ripe fruit that came through and the perfect amount of effervescence. It's definitely a must buy if I see it again. 

Natural Wine Tasting

I recently learned of a group in the DC area, Pineapple DC, designed to connect industry and lovers of food in a fun and frank environment around wine, food and spirits. After learning more about the group, I signed up for one of their upcoming events, #Pineforwine.

At this second version of #Pineforwine, the conversation was focused on natural wines. Remy Samuels who is a manager at Cordial Wine & Spirits located in Union Market led the discussion. Remy studied French and Italian in undergrad and traveled abroad. She began to wonder what career would truly make sense for her. After visiting a winery, she knew what she wanted to do. She's insanely knowledgeable about natural wine. Natural wine has been a supposed trend for wine geeks for quite, but it's not quite entirely clear what it means. There are no legal definitions of what makes a natural wine.

As Remy explained and from what I have read and heard from others, true natural wine is allowing the wine to really tell the story where it comes from. Wine should be part history and culture and exhibit a time and place. After a brief introduction, we sampled three of the several natural wines that Cordial carries.

Kloof Street Chenin Blanc (retails at Cordial $19.99) - This wine is created by a husband and wife team. The wife is originally from California and the couple met in France. Their wines are sustainable and biodynamic. The wine was really accessible and lighter in body than I anticipated. I found it a fun sipping wine with tropical fruit notes.

Red Tail Ridge Miscreant Finger Lakes 2015 (retails at Cordial $27.99) - We have another rockstar husband and wife duo running the show here. Nancy serves as winemaker and Mike as winegrower. The wine is 50% Chardonnay and 50% Gewurztraminer. The wine is considered orange or amber as it is fermented on the skins giving it a more golden hue. The wine is unfiltered meaning no animal products were used. This wine grew on me considerably as I enjoyed it. I do love my orange wines, but fragrant varietals can over power me. As I sipped the wine evolved and the rose petal and floral elements became less pronounced and I was able to detect more nutty and savory elements. I think I would have enjoyed it further with the right food pairing.

Domaine De Clovallon Pinot Noir Pays d'Oc 2015 (retails at Cordial $22.99) - This is our first mother and daughter team in the mix! They were founded in 1989 in the south of France. They are in it to win it with their natural wines and only farm biodynamically. The wine has what you would expect from a tasty natural wine. It was funky to nose with some slight effervescence. It was juicy with some dark fruit notes that came through. 

I am still learning more about natural wine and enjoying the many opportunities to taste wine and meet others. It's a journey, but it's definitely a tasty journey.

Any recommendations on natural wines or female winemakers or winery owners? List your comments below! 

Wine and Dating

Wine is a great way to make friends and to get to know someone.  You can learn a lot by people's behavior when it comes to wine. Here are some common missteps that I have encountered while dating.

Red or white?

When a man asks me simply red or white and expects an answer I know we will not last much pass 1-2 dates TOPS. Not only is that an insane question even for someone who is not partial to wine as much, but life is not binary. People who need clear answers to figure out others are a problem. Almost as much as a problem as when I get asked my ethnicity/background within 1-2 questions of speaking to someone.  The worst may be the beach or mountain question. One man told me it was a psychological question that was an indicator to a personality type.

Instead, it would be much better to simply ask an open ended question such as, "what do you like in your wine?"

Should I order for you?

How about no. Again, if I wanted help I could ask, but probably would rather ask the very knowledgeable staff. 

Instead, why not saying along the lines of "I love the pinot here. Would you like to taste it?"

I don't drink wine

I'm going to have to stop you right there, Bob. I have dated someone who not only didn't care about wine, but didn't drink. This is something important to me and afforded me really interesting travel opportunities and new friends. Chances are if someone doesn't drink, he's not going to be interested in sharing my passion and encouraging me to grow. 

What have others encountered with dating in regards to wine especially missteps? 

 

#Winelover Athens Anniversary Welcome Dinner - Scala Vinoteca

I attended the #winelover anniversary trip to Athens, Greece in February 2016.  It was a great opportunity that I found from a friend I made from the International Wine Tourism Conference.  The #winelover community is based online, but is pretty simple - we love wine.  All are welcomed to join and members include industry, sommeliers, importers, winemakers, and simply wine lovers.  I had seen some of the members blog posts, tried some of their wines, and was excited to finally meet some of the members on the trip.  

The trip started off with a welcome BYOB dinner at Scala Vinoteca.  Scala Vinoteca was the perfect welcome to Athens and to the #winelover community.  Every member brought a special bottle of wine.  Before coming I heavily debated what I should bring.  I asked my friend who is also a #winelover ambassador and specialist.  I was concerned that perhaps everyone's bottles would be super rare or high end ($100 or more).  She stated it should just be something really interesting or important to me.  Therefore, I ended up going with Chester Gap Cabernet France 2012.   I have written about my love of Chester Gap and their wines before.   It ended up being a big hit!  Many people hadn't traveled to America or their travels were limited to New York or other cities.  They were incredibly excited to try a Virginia wine and also  appreciated my love of promoting local.  Others experienced that difficulty in promoting local wines and food especially when at times they may be pricer than others.

The Scala Vinoteca space was somewhat modern with an open kitchen design.  Our group took over multiple tables and moved around to socialize.  The food was a delicious evolution in Greek and Mediterranean cuisine.   Being part of a large party, we had pre-set menu for the dinner as we did for other meals.  Every course was a tasty surprise ranging from vegetarian friendly to meaty delights.  

After eating our fill, we returned late to the hotel and continued the after party in the hotel lobby just as R. Kelly sung.